Whisky – the final edition is the latest book from Swedish whisky expert and Keeper of the Quaich, Ulf Buxrud. It details the story behind the most expensive Japanese whisky collection of all time – The Ichiro’s Malt Card Series.
Everyone familiar with Japanese whisky will surely have heard of this legendary series of bottlings from the iconic Hanyu Distillery, but few are aware of the epic tale behind it. Here, Buxrud tells the story from the beginning to the end, covering every detail in between.
He talks of how the series started, why only 122 complete series may have existed and even admits to “slaughtering a dozen or so (bottles), at least.” himself between 1995 and 2010, before going on to provide detailed historical accounts of the Akuto business and each and every bottle in the series.
This is all supported by truly stunning imagery that takes you on the journey from distillery foundations to whisky production, through maturation and finally into the bottle and auction houses around the world.
It’s a tome of knowledge about the Akuto family, their business operations (including the Hanyu Distillery) and The Card Series, detailing whisky stats and tasting notes for each of the 58 expressions in the awe-inspiring range. An account so in-depth, interesting and complete simply does not exist anywhere else in print, nor online.
Ulf Buxrud has been in love with whisky since the liquid first passed his lips when he was just 15 years old. The delight he experienced from the famous Black & White blend inspired him to learn more about the spirit, as well as tasting as many different expressions as he could. Throughout the years, he visited Scotland and Japan in a bid to further his knowledge, while teaching friends and compatriots along the way, hosting whisky tastings where he would pass on the things he had learned.
He has now published a number of excellent whisky books, including ‘Rare Malts’ and ‘Japanese Whisky’, with the former being named “Best Book About Spirits In the World 2006” at the Book Oscar ceremony in Beijing.
Whisky – the final edition
The book begins with a brief interview with Buxrud, giving some background on his love for whisky, his experiences in the industry, his favourite books and much more. It helps to build a sense of the character and allows us to visualise his journey to create this book, and his motivations behind it.
The interview is as fascinating as it is inspiring, and we haven’t even made the content page yet. In fact, ‘inspiring’ is a word that I kept revisiting throughout my time reading Buxrud’s words and it is something he clearly aimed for. Throughout, he actively encourages readers to take a leaf out of his book (pardon the pun) by getting out there, tasting as many whiskies as you can, experimenting with them, but most importantly, enjoying and documenting the experience.
While some chapters of the book inspire, others fascinate. His documentation of the Akuto family history is one of those. The passion, drive, history and expertise behind their business ventures is striking, detailing hundreds of years of learning and practice, eventually leading to the Card Series.
Buxrud then goes into great detail on the Hanyu Distillery, the newer Chichibu Distillery and Chichibu 2, the Akuto’s most recent venture, built on a site neighbouring the original Chichibu. He lists every detail possible, from their production capacities to the type of barley, yeast, washbacks, pot stills, lyne arms, coolers and casks that they use.
Then comes the whisky in the form of a detailed catalogue of every single bottle in the series, complete with high-resolution pictures of each. The fact that Buxrud himself has tasted each and every one of these is a monumental achievement in itself, while the fact that he remained sober enough to take in-depth notes on each is a testament to his passion and endurance.
The final chapters of Whisky – the final edition, are awash with advice and inspiration. Buxrud talks us through how to start collecting whisky, how to watch out for fakes, how best to auction your bottles (should you so desire) and even includes a superb trivia section that answers just about any questions you may have.
Want to know why there are two joker bottles, which versions were distilled last, which versions lack ABVs on the labels or which bottle had the highest release price? We won’t spoil you with the answers to these, but they’re all there on page 148 and 149.
It’s incredibly helpful reading for anyone looking to get into whisky collecting and even contains useful information for the more experienced collectors among us.
The final section, Passing Time, brings light-hearted fun in abundance, and makes us somewhat jealous of Ulf’s hobbies in the process.
Here, he details the joy he had experimenting with the Card Series, creating unique blends by mixing bottles based on poker hands, before giving tasting notes on these new inventions.
He created a straight flush with the 5 of clubs to 9 of clubs bottlings, a royal flush made up of hearts, three of a kind with two red queens and one black and many more. It’s an awesome way to finish what was a fantastic read and one that leaves me inspired to create some more blends of my own – though unfortunately, I won’t be using the Icihiro’s Malt Card Series.
Whisky – the final edition is a superb and complete account of one of the most legendary Japanese whisky producers of all time and how they went about creating a collection that will remain in the history books forever.
If you’re looking to further your knowledge of Japanese whisky history, or you have a particular interest in the Akuto’s and their Card Series, you’d be mistaken not to pick up this one.
Whisky – the final edition is available to buy from Amazon US.